CHARLES COUNTY – Emergency response services in Charles County are facing growing demands, with an average increase of about 2000 calls per year over the past decade, according to a comprehensive presentation to Charles County Charter Board members.

The county’s hybrid system of career professionals and volunteers struggles to keep up, particularly in densely populated areas such as Waldorf, where over 4000 calls are received annually. This figure extends even further when considering additional neighboring regions.

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Watch the Charles County Charter Board Meeting for more in-depth information on Charle County Fire and EMS.

During fiscal year ’23, the county answered 15,630 fire calls, with a success rate of 98.76%, and 24,808,126 medical calls, with a 90.56% success rate. Of the EMS calls, 77% were answered by career staff, while volunteers handled 23%. These increased calls are attributed to the county’s continuous building and population growth.

One major challenge noted was the delay at hospitals, sometimes up to three to four hours, which has significantly impacted the system’s success rate, as crews are held back from responding to new calls. Non-emergency public service calls, such as assisting someone out of their house, have also added to the strain.

In 1995, the county sought help from commissioners to hire professionals to run ambulances when volunteers could not keep up. The situation has escalated over the last 20 years, leading to more recent requests for assistance with limited support.

Among the solutions explored is Mobile Integrated Health, a team under the Department of Emergency Services, although it currently faces limitations. The county also relies on 100% volunteer association stations for handling fire, and special operation calls, which managed 15,630 fire calls this fiscal year.

The struggle extends to rural areas such as Indian Head, Benedict Cobb Island, and NAMO. The local commissioners now face critical decisions on supporting and expanding the county’s emergency response capabilities.

Chief Kaufman reiterated the commitment of the system, stating, “No call goes unanswered. Every single 911 call gets dispatched; every single 911 call gets a person to respond to the call.”

Further insights were provided by the Charles County Volunteer Fire and EMS Commission, who disclosed details on budget distribution, comparison with other counties, and various services during their monthly meetings. Around $8.5 million was shared among the 15 companies, with special funds for initiatives like scholarships and public education.

A focus on volunteer programs and budget allocation was emphasized, with Charles County’s total volunteer fire and EMS budget of $13,280,100 having zero dedicated personnel expenses. The Commission also acknowledged the volunteer-to-career path, underscoring the vital training gained through volunteering.

An extended discussion between county representatives shed light on the future of fire and EMS services in Charles County, including potential growth plans, collaboration, and investment in volunteer services.

The comprehensive review highlights the critical role of emergency response services in Charles County. The ongoing struggle to meet growing demands emphasizes the need for continued support, investment, and collaboration to ensure the safety and well-being of the community.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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